Where do you choose to live? Deciding to live in the city or suburbs isn’t nearly as important as choosing to live in the past, present, or future. Whether it’s the city or suburbs, life goes on. But can the same be said of the past? Or the future? The past no longer exists and the future has yet to exist. So, it is only in the present that we live.
Yet, many spend countless hours lingering in the past. Past regrets, past misfortunes, past mistakes. As their thoughts remain in the past, the present quietly slips by. Lost in the past, they are unaware of the opportunities of the present. Isn’t eight hours of sleep a day enough? What’s the point of waking up if all we do is dream about the past or future? Instead of focusing on the tapes playing in our heads, shouldn’t we open our eyes and experience the real thing?
Although the past, present, and future appear separated, they are tightly intermeshed. For example, as soon as I type a period at the end of a sentence, it transports it into the past. Each letter I type is created in the present, while the end of the sentence remains dangling in the future. The past, present, and future are neighbors that live so closely together that it is difficult to separate them. They are members of one family, which is called NOW. Although it is no easy task to slice life into separate pieces, for the sake of convenience and clarity I will divide time into the past, present, and future. The purpose of doing so is to share some suggestions on how to make the most of what we have, which is the past, present, and future.
Making the Most of the Present
The secret of life is to do our best NOW. When we live by this rule, we guarantee a happy past and a successful future. But the trick is to remain in the present. Instead of DREAMING about the past and future, CREATE them by doing your best now! If you haven’t been living by this rule, don’t worry about it because the past is behind you and you are now living in a new moment of time. You are living in the moment of power. It is only in the present that we have the power to change. And when I change my actions today, I am changing tomorrow’s past. As I continue to do my best each day, I build a new history of past successes, which then combine with the present to bloom into an even brighter future. If I continue on this path, I will reach the point where I repeat the words of Oprah Winfrey: “When I look into the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.”
A reason people live in the past or dream of the future is to avoid present discomfort. Rather than face challenges, difficulties, or pain, they seek refuge in a dream world. So, we need to develop the courage to face all challenges with a smile. It becomes easier to do so when we live one day at a time. The words of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 ~ 1895) are worth remembering: “Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means.” Marie Osmond also has some sound advice: “If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now.”
Making the Most of the Past
Instead of wallowing in the past, learn from it. What did you do wrong? Correct your behaviour! What did you do right? Keep doing it! Learn from the past with open eyes. Be brutally honest. Learn from what has happened, not from what you imagined has happened. Learn and move on. Use the past as a guidepost, not as a hitching post. Or, as Ivern Ball wrote, “The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.” Learn to let go of the past. Until you release it, you won’t be free to work on the present. And don’t be afraid of the past. It can’t reach out into the present and bite you. Let the dead rest in peace and focus on the only moment you are alive, which is NOW.
Pondering what might have been wastes as much time as dreaming what might be. The twilight world of speculation is like a dense fog that obscures reality. Leave the past and reengage with life, for that’s where all the excitement is. When you do so, like Emily Dickinson (1830 ~ 1886) you will discover, “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”
Making the Most of the Future
The future is a magical kingdom. It is pregnant with possibility, promise, and potential. It is the home of hope.The beauty of a flower lies not in its seed, but in its blossoming, not in its past, but in its future. So it is with us. Our most glorious days lie not behind us, but before us, for life is about endless growth. Also, consider this: no matter how dire your present circumstances, now matter how desperate you may feel, no matter how severe your losses, there is always tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is a fresh beginning. Tomorrow brings new opportunities. But tomorrow will never come unless you persist today. So, the lesson is clear. Weather the storm; survive the gale, and struggle through the tempest. In a word, persevere! Never give up!
Refuse to worry about tomorrow, for to do so is to be unhappy today. Rather than worry about it, prepare for it. Besides, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and it didn’t turn out all that bad, did it? Another point: don’t complain about the uncertainty of the future. After all, if you now knew of future successes, you may grow complacent and careless, or if you knew of future difficulties without knowing of future strength, you may grow unnecessarily despondent. It’s perfectly natural to be interested in the future since that’s where you’ll spend the rest of your life. But prepare for it by doing your best today and every day that follows.
Bill Keane nicely summarizes the point of this article: “Yesterday’s the past and tomorrow’s the future. Today is a gift — which is why they call it the present.” So, unwrap your gift with reverence, relish it, cherish it, and nourish it.